7 Tips to Improve Your Toddler's Vocabulary
Reading Time: 6 minutes

As a parent, raising a child is not an easy thing to do. It’s a full-time job that can be both rewarding and challenging. There are a lot of different things to think about when raising a child, from providing them with good education to making sure they have a stable home life.

But education for your child begins at home. Before sending them to school, you need to make sure that your children’s growth and development are on track.

One of the most important things to focus on when raising a child is their language development. By the time they reach school age, your child should be able to read, write, and communicate effectively.

Although your child will inevitably catch up on learning the language at some point, there are plenty of things you can do in the meantime to encourage speech and help them develop language skills.

That’s why we’ve put together this guide on how to help your child with their language development.

1. Talk to your toddler

One of the best things you can do for your child is talking to them. Talking helps children learn language skills and develop their vocabulary. Be sure to talk to your child about what you are doing, what they are doing, and ask them questions.

The more you talk to your toddler, the more words they will learn. Use simple, everyday words and phrases to describe what you are doing or what your toddler is experiencing.

Encourage your child to talk to friends and relatives.

Your child can string together more words to make simple sentences. For example, they might string together the words “Mom go bye-bye”. Your other family members can also ask simple questions such as, “Where is your dog?”

By the time they are 36 months old, they will be able to answer more complicated questions. For example, “What do you do when you are hungry?”  They will also do many different kinds of pretend play, such as going to work, fixing his toy car, and taking care of their family (of dolls and animals).

7 Tips to Improve Your Toddler's Vocabulary
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels

2. Read to your toddler

Children’s books are filled with interesting words and stories that can help expand your toddler’s vocabulary. A children’s book can be a springboard for meaningful conversations about many different topics, to further develop children’s critical thinking skills.

It is best for you to read to your child as much as possible every day. It is the best thing you can do to encourage language development. 

When you can read to your child at a predictable, regular time, one that is flexible and fits with the daily routines at home and school, you will be able to provide something that they will expect and something that they will look forward to. It is important that your child feels close to you. Feelings of love and attention promote the growth and development of your child.

Assemble the books and read them to your child. Eventually, they will read the books to you, instead of the other way around. Ask your child to tell you about the pictures in the books that they are reading.

By putting books on shelves or in baskets throughout your home, you can engage your child in reading stories. The book nook that is stocked in the car, bathroom, next to their bed, and the living room next to the television is a signal to your child that reading is important and easy.

As soon as your child is able to read on their own, you can continue telling them stories each day or night.

3. Use everyday objects to teach new words

The best thing that you can do is to act as your child’s interpreter and to help them understand the names of certain things. Point out the different colors and shapes of objects around the house. Explain what different things are used for and what sounds they make.

Ask them, “Do you want some juice?” The goal is to teach your child to say the word ‘juice’. So, the next time someone drinks something, instead of just pointing, encourage them to say the real word. 

Some difficult sounds, like ‘z’, ‘sh’, ‘f’, ‘v’, ‘r’, and ‘th’, may still be difficult for your child to learn. To help them learn how to say these sounds, practice saying the sounds with them. You can also have them practice saying the sounds in words.

Repetition is key when it comes to helping your child learn how to say difficult sounds. Have them repeat the sounds multiple times a day. You can also practice the sounds in different sentences and contexts. This will help them learn how to say the sounds in different situations.

4. Encourage your toddler to ask questions

When your toddler asks you about something they don’t understand, take the time to explain it to them using simple language. Usually, they ask about animals, body parts, or colors. If you are unsure of what your toddler is asking, try to clarify the question before answering.

The amounts of language that your toddler understands will vary from child to child. Some toddlers may be able to follow complex explanations, while others will only be able to understand very basic concepts. As your child’s language skills develop, you can gradually give them more detailed explanations.

Language delays are common in toddlers, so don’t worry if your child’s language skills aren’t quite up to par. Just make sure that you are patient and take the time to explain things to them in a way that they can understand.

7 Tips to Improve Your Toddler's Vocabulary
Photo by Vanessa Loring on Pexels

5. Repeat words and phrases

Repetition is a great way to help toddlers learn new words. Say the words out loud and use them in different contexts to help your toddler remember them. Language delays can be frustrating for both parents and children, but with a little patience and practice, most toddlers will eventually catch up.

Conditional praise and reward can also help encourage toddlers to learn new words. For example, if your toddler successfully repeats a new word after you say it, offer a special treat or a hug. Praises such as “good job” can also help boost your toddler’s confidence and encourage them to learn more words.

Be careful with inflated praise, however. While it’s important to encourage your toddler, it’s also important to be realistic. Telling your toddler that they are “the best word-speller in the world” when they can only spell one word may set them up for disappointment and frustration later on.

6. Sing nursery rhymes and children’s songs

Limited vocabulary words can make it difficult for toddlers to understand what is being said to them. Many popular nursery rhymes and children’s songs use simple words and phrases that can help teach toddlers new vocabulary. You can even sing some of the lullabies to your child that are their favorite.

Songs like “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep”, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”, and “The Wheels on the Bus” are great ways to teach toddlers about the alphabet, colors, and transportation. It also helps to teach them the different sounds that animals or vehicles make.

7. Use sign language

Signing can be a fun and easy way for toddlers to learn new words. 

Some parents choose to start teaching their baby sign language as early as 6 months old.

There are a variety of sign language resources available to help you get started. Platforms like Signing Time and Baby Signing Time offer online classes, videos, and songs that teach common signs. You can also find books and flashcards that focus on teaching sign language to babies.

When introducing sign language to your baby, start with a few simple signs and gradually add more as your baby becomes more comfortable. Some of the most common signs to start with include: eat, drink, more, all done, and baby.

Giving your baby the ability to communicate using sign language may help them feel more confident in what they communicate.

Reminders

If they do good work and their vocabulary is improving, don’t forget to always praise your child since the absence of praise signifies disapproval. If they are doing well, praise them!

If you’re not praising your child, they may think that they’re doing something wrong. It’s important to provide positive reinforcement when your child does something you approve of. This will help them feel good about themselves and continue to behave in a way that you’re happy with.

But if the tips we’ve mentioned don’t improve your toddler’s vocabulary, consider whether they are having other more underlying problems. If your toddler is not meeting developmental milestones, has trouble communicating with another person, or has an attention disorder, then they may need professional help to improve their vocabulary.

A toddler with speech delays may try and say some words, but they may have trouble forming the right sounds to make words. Language difficulties can also be caused by hearing problems.

If you suspect that your toddler has a hearing problem, consult your pediatrician. Early diagnosis and treatment of hearing problems can help ensure that your toddler’s language skills develop normally.

Be the best parent for your children. Read more on Mindful Parent to help you connect with your children and learn more about parenting.